I'll always remember the first rally game that truly captured my attention and affection. It was a beautiful summers day in June 2007. I had just bought my first HDTV and wanted to try a new game out on it. I ran down to the shops and picked up the first new release: Colin McRae DiRT. I was hesitant. Rally games always scared me but the visuals on the box convinced me that this is something worth experiencing. It was. Fast forward nine whole years and the DiRT franchise has returned to it's roots to create the greatest rally game ever in the form of DiRT Rally.
Developed by Codemasters and out now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC DiRT Rally is all about the multi-staged, precision driving thrill that the sport is known for. Gone are the stadium events and spectacle of being fancy with a car. Here, you've got to make it from point A to point B without destroying your vehicle. The career is broken down into championships of multiple events. Each event features a different track and requires you to pay very close attention to everything. It's not all about speed but precision. The rougher the ride, the more your vehicle gets banged up. Between each event you have 30 minutes to fix your vehicle which is shown as a percentage and everything takes time. You'll never have enough time to fully repair your car so you must manage by prioritising which parts were damaged more and which ones might hold out for the duration of the championship.
DiRT Rally is a tough game. A person that wouldn't be able to describe the game very well may say it's the Dark Souls of rally games. Thankfully, I understand it's tough but fair nature. Listening to your co-driver is essential if you want to make it to the end of the event. He will call out the upcoming section and you must be able to make a decision then to prepare yourself. You're not only always watching the tight road in front but also listening to every word that's said to you.
It's not about speed in DiRT Rally. Putting your pedal to the metal will probably always result in a busted car coupled with some spectacular flips along the way. It's all about managing your speed, taking turns carefully and reading the road ahead. It's that constant attention that keeps the tension and, ultimately should you do well, the satisfaction so high. You won't win every event but you'll feel like a champion should you actually win one. A simple misjudge can mean the end of your championship and even though that sounds like it isn't fun, winning means more in this game than most others.
Visually, the game is one of the better looking ones and runs at a smooth 60 frames a second. For a game that requires quick reactions and slight corrections, this makes the whole experience even more enjoyable. There is a great amount of detail on the cars and the surrounding environments are similarly eye-catching. There is a surprising amount of content here both from a single-player and a multiplayer standpoint. No matter what you're doing you can earn credits which are then used to buy new vehicles that can be then used both in your career and online which makes everything worth playing. If I were to use a sigh-inducing buzzword I would say its "synergy"
DiRT Rally gets over the crest and takes top spot. 5/5.
DiRT Rally at CeX
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